Photo by Keith Allison / CC-BY-SA-2.0Football requires a great deal of perseverance, patience, and strategy, so it makes perfect sense that many NFL players love to try their hand at poker in their leisure time.
While you might not catch every player at a Las Vegas casino, there are some Green Bay Packers stars who have fallen in love with the card game. Check out the past and present players who love to play a hand or two of poker.
Everyone’s favorite QB Aaron Rodgers is partial to a game or two of poker when not on the football field. When he isn’t giving it his all in a big game, he is known for unleashing his competitive side at the felt. It’s believed he has a killer instinct when playing poker, which dates back to his time on the college football team, the California Golden Bears.
He reportedly refused to lose when at the table and would win an incredible 75% of his weekly games when playing against his teammates, which was thanks to his superb poker face. It’s a hobby he continues to enjoy, too, as he and former fullback John Kuhn are known for not talking to each other for days following an intense poker game.
Poker is more than just a card game. It requires a great deal of strategy, understanding, and patience. What’s more, a skilled player to have a firm grasp of the math of poker to secure a winning hand. Vince Lombardi, who served as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers during the 1960s, understood that poker was a multifaceted game, and believed it was based on the three Ps:
- Position (the proximity to the dealer)
- Psychology (reading the behavior of an opponent)
His knowledge of poker was so strong that he even wrote a chapter in the book ‘How to Play Poker and Win.’ He believed that poker players need to carefully observe others’ behavior to master the game.
Max McGee played as a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers from 1954 to 1967. While most fans might never have had the pleasure of seeing him in action, it is likely they will be well aware of his seven receptions for 138 yards, as well as two touchdowns at the very first Super Bowl, which was held in 1967.
The iconic player wasn’t only passionate about football, but he also had a love for gambling. In fact, Paul Hornung once stated that McGee, like Aaron Rodgers, was fiercely competitive when playing any game from poker to golf. He loved betting so much that he was reportedly investigated by the FBI after his NFL career came to an end, but the case was dropped due to a lack of evidence. Despite the controversy, Jerry Kramer stated, “it was more of a social thing than serious gambling.” However, his love of poker and horse racing brought him great joy, as his funeral song was Kenny Roger’s ‘The Gambler.’
Paul Hornung, who earned the nickname “The Golden Boy,” was a running back for the Green Bay Packers from 1957 to 1966. He has also been inducted into both the professional and college football Hall of Fame. The versatile player was also a more than capable quarterback, halfback and placekicker, so it’s unsurprising he was the first pro player to receive the Heisman Trophy.
When he wasn’t leading the team to victory, Hornung was partial to a game or two of poker, which he reportedly liked to play with Max Mcgee, who was his roommate for ten seasons. However, he never took the game seriously, as he claimed, “If I’m up in Green Bay during the season, I have no compulsion to gamble. I would never be the one to say, ‘Gee, I sure would like to get up a poker game now.’ But if somebody said, ‘We’ll get a poker game going,’ then, naturally, Max McGee and I would be there.”
While he stated he wasn’t obsessed about playing poker, he recently embraced the pastime to raise money for the charity Nevada Child Seekers. The Hall of Fame player recently hosted a Red Rock Casino Charity Poker Tournament alongside other NFL stars, such as the Chicago Bears Gale Sears. The event was held to raise essential funds for the organization, which is dedicated to tracking down both missing and abducted children in Nevada.
Jerry Kramer might be an unknown name to many new Green Bay Packers fans, but he was a sporting star for the team, enjoying an 11-year NFL career as an offensive lineman from 1958 to 1968. He reportedly spent a great deal of time with his teammates off the field, once stating, “We loved to play cards. Tommy Joe was a savvy guy. He was just aware of everything, especially in poker. We would have Bob Skoronski, Doug Hart, Ron Kostelnik, Tommy Joe, and some other guys at times.”
He also stated that often, it would only be him and Tommy Joe left at a poker table, as the other players would either want to go home or would have lost their money. He also occasionally played with Max McGee, who he called a “good player” and that he would often lose against him and Zeke Bratkowski, a former QB for the Green Bay Packers.
As poker and football require a competitive nature, a smart strategy, and an ability to predict an opponent’s behavior, it’s not surprising that many NFL players love to tackle the card game in their spare time.